Product Development - Phase 1: Precultivating the Crops
Both Timo and I have a passion for growing stuff. There are few things as satisfying as watching
barren soil turn into small saplings, and ultimately a majestic plant which grows something useful.
For the first time we are doing this not purely from a hobbyists perspective, so assume that we will
make stupid mistakes. Also we do not know exactly what we will make out the plants we are growing yet.
We are going to document all the steps on our blog here, also letting you in on the considerations from
a carbon footprint perspective.
We do not only want to grow something useful, we also want to minimize the footprint every step of the way and ultimately have a confident number for the end products carbon footprint. Hopefully we will also have created a documentation of considerations along the way that can serve as a building ground for (our) future improvements and maybe even an inspiration for others.
We are well aware that some of the things we do here will not "scale" properly and that's fine, we will get that once we have to.
Step 1: Getting the required materials
We need seeds, growing containers, soil or substrate and water. For the growing containers
finding carbon neutral inputs was rather simple. Every year there are at least two occasions where there
is a bulky waste collection in our neighborhood. People seem to have extra plant pots every time, so we just
scooped up everything we needed from there. We consider this a carbon neutral activity as they would have been
thrown away otherwise. This task would actually scale quite a bit if you're willing to put in the time to check
other neighborhoods as well.
For the seeds we opted for something that was also somewhat carbon neutral, albeit not scalable. The tomato and chili seeds we got from friends & family who grew some last year. For both getting seeds out of the finished crops is rather easy, so you can share them.
We could try to allocate some of the resources that went into their cultivation last year but since that was a rather low carbon intensity activity we refrain from this here. We know the footprint is not 100% zero but close enough.
For the soil we still had a 20 l bag of conventional plant potting soil laying around, which was plenty. We allocate a carbon footprint of 1,5 Kg CO₂e for this. If we were buying actual soil we would opt for the kind that utilizes biochar substrate and compost. We actually found this neat company who calculates a genuine carbon negative footprint for their potting mix: Rosy Soil
Step 2: Get first seedlings to sprout (Starting end of January)
Basically all we need to do for this step is place the planting containers in a somewhat warm room (my living room in our case).
We place the seed a few centimeters into the soil, leaving about a hand wide of space between the individual
seeds. For the first two weeks we want to make sure that the soil remains moist but not completely wet.
For this we water it every couple of days.
Once our plants have sprouted we can reduce the moisture levels and start watering every 1,5 weeks or so. If we keep the soil too wet the young plants will be less eager to build strong roots.
Step 3: Move the plants to bigger pots
A month or so later once our plants had reached a certain height, we decided to move them to individual
pots. This step is optional but makes it easier to later move individual plants outside without having to
disentangle their roots.
The pots we use here are also 100% 2nd hand recycled (i.e. our former basil pots from the store, tomato buckets, many things will work :D). We did not need additional soil as we were just moving the plants from the longer form container into smaller individual pots. And you can see in the images the tomatoes will need something holding them at this stage, we use sticks and even pens we had laying around.
What also came in handy at this stage was the bottom of this former guinea pig cage we found someone giving away for free. This way we can have the plants in a container, avoiding water spillage and making it easier to move the plants out of the way.
This basically concludes the work of phase 1, precultivating the crops. By now it's mid March and we will let the plants keep growing indoor for a while now, watering them occasionally. Up next we will need to get the vegetable garden outdoor ready, so that we can move the plants outside once the last frost of the year has passed.
Follow along here if you want to find out if our plants survive throughout the year and whether we will eventually be able to turn them into a useful product, to put in our store.
Cheers Timo / Simon